Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
Get HideMyAss! VPN, PC Mag's Top 10 VPNs of 2016 for 55% off for a Limited Time ×

Comment Scottish so can't vote but... (Score 1) 266

If I could vote, I'd vote Jill Stein & Green. I don't agree with her on everything, but she's my favourite among the lot. That said, the US needs to get a decent voting system and ditch First Past The Post. FPTP as a system of casting votes is no longer fit for purpose, and more of a hindrance in the path of democracy than a vehicle.

You need a system that offers ranking, so you can vote for who you want, not against who you don't, and can stop thinking about voting tactically. It's awful that people have to vote Democrat, simply to stop the Republicans, or risk splitting the vote. If you could say "Jill Stein, but if she fails then Hillary", that would be so much more satisfying.

You need proportional representation (PR), so that everyone is represented according to their proportion, and vote fixing tactics like gerrymandering no longer matter. More importantly, every vote would matter. PR doesn't have to be nationwide, it can offer huge benefits just from amalgamating 4-9 local voting districts.

Also stop thinking in terms of two parties. Have many smaller parties. Have a minority government that has to work together and agree on things to make changes, rather than be able to push things through simply due to a majority (which currently doesn't even represent half the population). Sure, you'd get a few extremists in (who represent the extremists in the country), but they still wouldn't have carte blanche to push through their extremist policies, and maybe then you wouldn't have extremists who thought their voice wasn't getting hurt, and deciding to take a more violent approach to getting their message across.

The Scottish government, is about to start debating whether we should move from AMR to STV. We have a popular minority government, and we're sitting down and discussing how to improve the mechanics of democracy even further. How cool is that?

Comment Re:Thanks to (Score 1) 364

A minute or two to fix a post would be handy, because frequently the only problem is something trivial like misspelling a bit of code so it doesn't work, a stray apostrophe, you've lost your paragraph structure, or noticing that your phone's autocorrect has tricked you. I know there's preview, but still.

It's not like you're typically fundamentally rewriting the whole thing, just fixing a few misplaced characters to sort out a broken post. It could make the whole board look a lot tidier too.

Replying to your comment to correct an ambiguity or link or something often looks untidy, and the reply won't always get the same visibility as the original comment.

Comment Re:Antibiotic abuse and biodiversity (Score 1) 203

Depends on the strain (some produce some really nasty toxins), and who's getting it. Some E. coli is harmless, and lives commensally in your gut, helping you digest your food.

On the other hand, enterohaemorrhagic E. coli O157:H7 (EHEC) can give you acute kidney failure, and has killed children and old people whose immune systems weren't strong enough.

Comment Re:These were already solved... (Score 1) 349

I started using Linux on my desktop full time back in 2002. I've currently got the latest Linux Mint installed, and it's a dream to use. When I started using a Mac for work in 2012, I found the OS rather frustrating to use, and have done much tinkering to make it more like Linux again.

As far as I'm concerned, either Linux has been ready for the desktop for a very long time already, or being ready for the desktop is some unattainable status that so far no OSes have managed.

Comment Re:SecureCRT (Score 1) 352

I find OS X's window manager quite clunky, and I appreciate being able to Opt-Space to pull down an iTerm2 on any desktop, especially as you can open any file with Cmd-Click, I'm faster using iTerm2 than with the Finder.

However on Linux (Mint Cinnamon, which I like very much), I just type Super-A, and a terminal pops up wherever I am, so I don't need the Quake-style drop-down. I don't use Windows, so I don't have a solution there.

Comment Re:When my games stop working on Win 7, maybe (Score 1) 272

I am very much in the same situation as you. I use OS X and Linux at work, Linux Mint at home, and I have an (also legit) Win7 install for certain games (although I haven't booted into Windows since December, which tells you how often I actually use it).

I've heard from the tech guys at work that Win10 is going to make their lives a lot easier, and that it's actually looking quite good under the hood, which I do like the sound of.

I might at some point upgrade... but not until there's a pressing need.

Comment Modelling (Score 1) 1067

I work as a mathematical epidemiologist, modelling disease spread in populations. In my work there are three cases when I encounter divide by zero.

1) Disease transmission. Say you have two types of individual, susceptible and infectious, the numbers of which are given by S(t) and I(t), and the total population size is N=S+I. Diseases typically transmits at a rate beta*S*I/N, where beta is the transmission coefficient. What happens when N=0? In this case we want the transmission rate to also be 0.

2) Poisson distributed random numbers. When events happen randomly at rate lambda, the number of events that occur in a time interval dt is n~Poisson(lambda*dt). When lambda=0, you'd always expect n=0. Strictly speaking the Poisson distribution isn't defined for lambda=0, but the limit as lambda->0 is indeed 0. The GNU Scientific Library, Octave, Matlab, and R all return 0 for Poisson(0), however Julia and Numpy both return an error.

3) Adaptive tau leaping. If you aren't using fixed tau leaping, then you need to work out how big a time step you can safely take, which requires bounding the relative change in a variable. This is done by dividing the variable size by the expected change in that variable, and finding the time step tau, repeating for every variable, and taking the smallest time step you get. In this case, it is entirely possible that the expected time step is zero, say when the population is at equilibrium. This doesn't mean that nothing is happening (you should also check that the variance is bounded), and so here you absolutely need that divide by zero is infinity, and that infinity is greater than any other number you might find.

The first two cases are actually undefined (0/0 is mathematically undefined, since you get different answers depending on how you approach the limit), but the desired outcome is clearly zero. The third case is either 0/0 or x/0, but either way you definitely want to interpret the result as infinity.

In my situation, I just wrote a small function called div0, which I use whenever I expect a divide by zero to occur, and know that I want to interpret that as zero, not infinity.

Comment Re:Meh (Score 1) 830

As a mathematician and scientist living in Scotland, I lament our use of decimal. Counting in base-12 would have been considerably more useful. Frankly I think we divide by 5 far less often than we divide by 2, 3, 4, or 6, and only one of those gives a round number in decimal. As for the convenience of having 10 fingers, we also have 12 finger segments, allowing us to count to 144 (100 in base 12) on our fingers.

But then imperial measurements are often not based on units of 12. There may be 12 inches in a foot, there are 3 feet in a yard, 16 ounces in a pound, 14 pounds in a stone, 20 ounces in a pint, 8 pints in a gallon, gods know how many feet in a mile, 3 miles in a league... and I only know a few of those without looking them up.

Really, basing everything around one number is such a convenience, even if those numbers aren't always wholly convenient for having day-to-day things ending up in integer numbers.

Comment When people aren't used to seeing extensions (Score 4, Interesting) 564

Whenever I see a Windows desktop with file extensions disabled, I always try to explain to the person that they should be switched back on, and most people are quite happy to do so (they only had them off because that was the default).

However I was quite dismayed when I looked at my mother's laptop (which I had installed Linux Mint on for her), and she had no file extensions either. It turned out that she thought they looked untidy, and had gone through and manually removed the extensions from every single file in her home directory!

Fortunately the file and mmv commands made short work of fixing this, but I was surprised to say the least.

Comment I don't own a TV (Score 1) 244

I haven't owned one since I came to university in 1999. I've had flatmates who've owned one, and I've watched DVDs on my computer, so I haven't been completely free from television. Mostly free from ads though!

Actually I know quite a few people who don't own television sets, it's not that uncommon. The TV licensing people don't really believe that though, so you've still got to respond to those unpleasant "we think you're probably breaking the law" letters once a year.

Comment Re:Benefits, but still misses the point... (Score 1) 698

I'm 32, and in my whole life I've only seen a few guns in the UK. There were some air rifles in my school rifle club, and a couple of guns when I was in the ATC as a teenager. I don't know anyone who admits to owning a gun. I visited the US for 5 weeks when I was 15, and saw loads of them (I found it incredibly intimidating).

A very cursory check suggests that there are around 1.8 million guns in the UK, mostly in rural areas. That's 1 for every 35 people. So yes, there may be some guns, but the UK is a different situation to the US.

Comment Re:Benefits, but still misses the point... (Score 1) 698

At the risk of going against the general feeling, here in the UK we don't have any guns, and we have remarkably few school shootings. I honestly don't think that bringing more guns to the mix would make us safer. Yes, there are knife attacks, but it's considerably harder to kill people with a knife than with a gun, and running away is a realistic solution.

However the US has the problem that it already tolerates guns, so you need to find a different solution. Bringing more guns to the mix is going to make things safer. Stopping people having them in the first place would be a more sensible approach, but the 2nd amendment prevents that. This is not trolling or flamebait, but I personally find it very hard to justify that law: overthrowing a bad government would take more than just shooting a bunch of old men in the White House, you'd need to take on the military, and they have tanks, so you'll keep on having children dying as the years drag on for no appreciable benefit.

I really hope that the US can find a way to help troubled kids, to make it so they don't feel that the only option to get noticed is to kill the people around them, and the only solution at that point is to kill them before they kill to many others, but I don't think the system is set up that way.

Comment Re:Why..... (Score 1) 259

That would be awful. Your system would immediately hurt poor people, and benefit rich people, and since poor people vastly outnumber the rich, you'll end up harming the economy too, both through huge numbers of people buying less because they're worse off, and rich people paying less.

Taxing necessities the same as luxuries also hits poor people more, as they rely on the former. You need *progressive* taxation to account for people's ability to pay, since a flat tax for a poor person hurts much more than the same amount for a rich person.

Taxes are also there to penalise harmful activities. For example, there is a huge tax on tobacco that pays for treatment of cigarette smokers 5 times over (in the UK at least, I'm guessing you're from the US if you have hospital bills). Losing that would be a huge hit to medical care. Similarly, there are taxes on fuel and carbon usage to help prevent air pollution, since global warming is a huge problem that we face (okay, we'll ignore that state that decided to tax fuel efficient cars to make up for lost income, that was just stupid).

Slashdot Top Deals

The reason that every major university maintains a department of mathematics is that it's cheaper than institutionalizing all those people.